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Rowan County youth to attend national Lutheran gathering

By Pete Prunkl
For The Salisbury Post
The city of New Orleans has welcomed thousands of volunteers in the years since the devastation of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. But wait until July 22-26. That’s when 37,000 youth and adults from all parts of the country ó including Rowan County ó descend on the Crescent City. The Lutheran church is assembling a small city of volunteers on a massive mission trip.
Youth from seven Rowan County Lutheran congregations will join the gathering or rather the Gathering. That’s the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) Youth Gathering, an event held every three years in cities across the United States.
Worship, music, Bible study, service, learning, fun, prayer, reflection, caring for others and new friendships are always a part of gatherings. But the 2009 event will be different. Its central focus will be service and justice ó learning by doing, listening and changing.
A major part of the event will be to connect with the people of New Orleans and join with them is rebuilding their community. The 2009 theme is easy to remember: Jesus, Justice and Jazz.
“I think the gathering will be inspiring and refreshing,” said Clarke Phifer, a member of Salem Evangelical Lutheran Church and rising freshman at West Rowan High School. “It will be something I remember for the rest of my life.”
Andrew Garrison, a rising sophomore at West, added, “I’ll be a better person after the gathering and more thankful for what I have. It will pull me closer to God.”
This is the first time either student has attended a youth gathering.
Clarke, Andrew and nine other Salem youth and six parents are making the trip to New Orleans. They participated in all the various fundraisers organized at Salem Evangelical Lutheran Church on Sherrill Ford Road in Salisbury.
For more than a year, Salem youth, parents and leaders have hosted church dinners, bake sales, Tupperware parties, car washes, neighborhood dinners and yard sales in an effort to raise $13,600. That’s what is needed for the group to travel to New Orleans, pay the $300 per person registration fee and stay in motels for six days. Food and spending money are extra. All of the planning and working together have paid off in more than just money.
“We have strengthened our faith and relationships this past year,” said Robin Satterwhite, one of the six Salem parents attending the Gathering.
The event is also the largest national gathering of adults in the ELCA.
“This is not a vacation experience,” Satterwhite said. “It is a vocation experience where we will be transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
The group intends to share their photos and transformative experiences though The Salisbury Post and by giving talks to church groups once they return.
In order to prepare participants for their New Orleans experience, each month of 2009 Youth Gathering leaders have sent study material to registered participants. One particular study focused on ways to put into practice the prophet Micah’s challenge to “do justice, love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”
How much money has been raised or donated to the Salem travelers? All of it. The only expense left is for the group’s food. In a big city like New Orleans that can be a considerable expense for 11 always-hungry teens and six adults. Approximately $1,500 is needed for food during the six days away.
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Want to help? Checks payable to Salem Evangelical Lutheran Church may be sent to the church at 5080 Sherrill Ford Road, Salisbury, 28147. Write “Youth Gathering” in the memo line. Call the church at 704-636-0352 to arrange a post-gathering speaker.

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